Sunday, October 18, 2015

Reflections on Canada's N word

There was a graph here that disappeared, from Eiynah "Nice Mangos". Never mind, just read her blog, please.

I don't know what irritates me more.

The cynical manipulation of the issue by the Harper regime, attempting to win votes by pandering to xenophobia,


The knee jerk politically correct reaction of my fellow liberals, falling all over themselves to prove how accepting of diversity they are,


The damn medieval face coverings themselves and the smug religious fanatics wearing them, whether by choice or not.

For some perspective, my solidarity lies with the brave women taking to the streets in this picture from 1979, fighting for the right to NOT wear the things.
Canada's new N word is Niqab, the cloth some fundamentalist Muslim women wear to cover their face, leaving just a slit for eyes. 

For non Canadians or those having lived under a rock the last months, the present conservative government had appealed a court ruling deciding that a woman could take the oath of citizenship while thus garbed. I have gone on about this issue in some depth before. 
The prime minister used the case as a wedge issue during the endless federal election campaign.

I detest the efforts by the Harperites to fan the flames of xenophobia. I am proud that Canadians have pushed back against this, including playful acts like the guy who went into an advance poll wearing a sort of doily over his face. Even so I stand by my original thoughts, explained at length here.

Today I want to discuss the accusation of Islamophobia that occurs when one expresses a preference for uncovered faces.

Yes, I am an Islamophobe. As a feminist how can I be anything but? Why should I not fear the growing influence of a religion that systematically relegates me to second class citizen or worse? This is an equal opportunity phobia. I fear theocracy in general. I am equally worried about the rise of the ultra orthodox in other religions. The dystopian Republic of Gilead from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is looking less like fantasy and more like a possibility by the day.  Schoolgirls on buses in Jerusalem are being harassed by ultra orthodox Jews whose actions resemble the morality squads of Tehran. 

Islam does not have a monopoly on misogyny or on the aim to do away with the wall between secular and religious powers. It does seem to have it more built in than the other bunch. I therefore fear it a bit more than the others. Fearing theocracy does not mean I fear ordinary neighbours of other cultures, including those from Islamic backgrounds. It does not make me a xenophobe or a racist.

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. I have always been an eclectic, and will never be a strict follower of any party line. On this one issue I find myself in agreement with a PM I otherwise cannot wait to get rid of. I repeat that I detest his use of the issue.

As for the much touted argument that it is their religion and therefore sacrosanct, I repeat my wish for some testing of that principle by a fundamentalist pagan
Seriously, what would happen if we demanded the right to dance naked around a May Pole, or even better, have a public orgy in the fields to help fertility?

Then there is the argument that telling a woman what not to wear is just as bad as telling her what to wear, so people who want to remove face coverings are as bad as the Taliban. Come on now. A bit of perspective here please. This argument suffers from the slippery slope fallacy, the idea that a bit of something is the same as a lot of it. According to that logic a gentle summer breeze is the same as Hurricane Sandy. They are both wind. All we are asking is one small concession.

Back in the early sixties we spent some summers in a rural area in Southern Spain, before that country had quite joined the modern era. It never entered my mind to dress in shorts on the street  there. It would have been disrespectful to the local culture. In this culture, we encourage equality between genders and we show our face. Doing otherwise, especially at a moment when one joins the nation as a member, is a sign of disrespect of our culture. 

Attempts at legislation seem to have a reverse effect. It gives the thing way too much attention and may encourage people to take up the custom who would otherwise not go near it. 

I am an immigrant myself, always aware that I live on a stolen continent. North America is relatively empty. It stands to reason more people from all over the world should move here. I welcome them. I love going to metro Vancouver and seeing the rainbow. 

However, some achievements from Western civilisation truly are progress. I refuse to apologise for  resenting the Niqab as a symbol of misogyny.

The linked blog contains words by a Canadian of Pakistani origin who feels baffled and betrayed by the PC crowd. Please pay attention to Eiynah "Nice Mangos".

1 comment:

Sean Jeating said...

To cut a long com(pli)ment short: Excellent.